Addiction to painkillers is running rampant in our country and has resulted in the recent explosion of heroin abuse. Heroin importation has dramatically increased over the past decade. Heroin is cheaper than prescription opioids and has similar physical effects on the user. Many patients who are no longer able to obtain prescription painkillers from a legitimate medical practitioner will simply turn to heroin to avoid withdrawal symptoms and relieve pain.
The views shared herein are from the perspective of a drug investigator, not a physician. Specifically, a retired DEA Special Agent who has taken a special interest in combating America’s Prescription Drug Abuse epidemic. Arguably, this is a unique source of information on this topic. Furthermore, it has been determined that physicians, their patients and communities in general are better served after receiving education how to identify common methods of diversion of controlled pharmaceutical substances.
It is imperative that training be provided to healthcare practitioners throughout the country on DEA’s role in healthcare so legitimate and well-intentioned doctors can keep their medical practices compliant from a DEA Regulatory standpoint. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of physicians do not receive adequate training in medical school on DEA Policy as it pertains to legitimate prescribing of controlled substances. As a result, some patients are becoming addicted, while others are not getting the treatment they need and are turning to street drugs. Heroin has crossed over to all segments of society because of the explosion of opioids (painkillers) prescribed in our country, turning millions of people into drug addicts. Did you know that enough opioids were prescribed last year to medicate every single American adult for a month?
A large portion of this medication is being diverted to the black market for substantial illegal profit. To illustrate: the most notoriously abused opioid medication is Oxycontin, which sells for a dollar a milligram on the street, making an 80 milligram pill worth $80. One dose of heroin can cost an average of $20. In addition to legitimate pain patients turning to heroin because their physicians will not prescribe their medications, I have also witnessed legitimate pain patients turn to heroin because it is cheaper and they see an opportunity to sell their pain meds for illegal financial gain.
Doctors who receive training from a DEA experienced investigator can learn how to identify doctor-shoppers, as well as methods to combat diversion that start within their offices. Additionally, physicians can learn how to identify if a legitimate patient is taking prescribed medications or diverting them, abusing illicit drugs, or should be referred for cessation. This is vital to the life of the patient as well as the practitioners’ medical practice from a DEA Regulatory standpoint.